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Chaim Y. Botwinick

Before “the day after” – Resetting the Israel-Hamas war narrative

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The entire world is now focused and fixated on the “day after,” meaning…what happens to Gaza, the Palestinians, Hamas and the security of the State of Israel when the war in Gaza ends (whenever or however that ever happens).

In light of all the false starts, predictions and prognostics, it is very easy to be glib or cynical about this topic. In fact, there are as many proposals, predictions and opinions about how the war in Gaza will end and what the day after will look like as there are grains of sand in the Sinai desert.

This obsession and preoccupation, is based in part upon a burning hope and desire for an end to a war which has cost Israelis precious lives in unprecedented ways. This pain and heartbreak does not include the tremendous lack of confidence and trust Israelis are now beginning to have in its government as well as in Israel’s military and security establishment which has left many living in Israel in disbelief and with a lack of hope, trust, a sense of  bewilderment and a feeling of insecurity.

Yes, the IDF and Israel’s special security forces (may Hashem bless and protect them with excellent health and continued strength) have made monumental and courageous advances by eliminating significant Hamas terrorists; and, for this, we continue to be be grateful and thankful both to HaShem and to the IDF (in that order). But, until Israel decapitates the operational, military, strategic and political head of the vicious poisonous serpent, that is Hamas, we will continue to confront and do battle against this evil…lasting possibly for future generations well into the future.

This daunting reality begs a level of clarity regarding Israel’s end-game. In other words, what are its goals and objectives in Gaza and how will they be achieved?

Eradicating Hamas in Gaza and eliminating its military capacity, infrastructure  and ability to ever attack Israel again, is an essential goal – especially since October 7th. But, the question still remains…is it possible? realistic? feasible? And finally, what is the plan?

Friends, we must be honest with ourselves and face the daunting possibility that there may be NO plan, and that maybe we are drawing up military strategic plans as we move forward. Either way, not a pretty or optimistic picture.

These harsh realities are further exacerbated and complicated by the tremendous individual and collective national pain and anguish Israel as a nation is currently experiencing.

We are mispallel daily for an end to this nightmare and for the safe release of the hostages now being held captive in Gaza’s unimaginable hell-hole.

All this is occurring while Washington and the world continues to put the brakes on Israel’s  commitment and desire to eradicate the remaining Hamas battalions now located in Rafah and in central Gaza. This challenge does not even begin to address Israel’s battle against Hezbollah, the vicious ugly and evil Iranian proxy committed to Israel’s annihilation.

So when we talk about “the day after” or even try to envision what it may look like,  we must  be very circumspect and focused on all the tireless military progress and effort, political heavy lifting and political maneuvering that will be necessary to take place prior to that “day.”

I am not a military strategist or a defense analyst. I am educator with a keen sense of history and strategic planning experience. This has enabled me and others to think more strategically about events in history which mold and shape our people’s destiny. But, as we know well, a large part of this challenge is and will continue to be about leadership. Does Israel currently have the confidence in its current leadership; and, does its current leadership posses the vision, fortitude, insight, credibility and critical path forward into the future?

As I write this blog, news is breaking that Prime Minister Netanyahu has dismantled his war cabinet and has returned to empowering his security cabinet with all decisions impacting the war in Gaza. We are also beginning to experience the ratcheting up of Hezbollah’s bold and aggressive military posture towards Israel with the continued launching of thousands of deadly missiles and rockets into Israel from Lebanon. In addition, news and social media reports are now circulating that the level of starvation originally reported in the Gaza strip was a gross exaggeration and a false narrative in order to discredit and criticize Israel for committing false acts of genocide. In fact, the world is now seeing newly released photos and videos of thousands of tons of fruits, vegetables, grains, cooking oil and the like just sitting in open air Gazan market places and in sixteen-wheeler truck parking lots.

Some of this food is available free of charge through humanitarian centers, or available through open food markets in Gaza…that is if these parcels of food are not first stolen, confiscated or destroyed by Hamas before they even reach the mouths of Palestinian children, women and elderly in need of food and nutrition.

As we look into the future, what does the dismantling of Israel’s war cabinet actually imply or suggest in real time? Can this be another setback? Or, is this move the next logical step in defeating Hamas. Time will tell.

But, many analysts posit that the war cabinet from the get-go was nothing more that a paper tiger with diminished power and impact from the get-go. It really never had the power or influence that one would have imagined or thought it to posses. This became even more evident after unity minister and Knesset member Ganz resigned from his cabinet leadership post. It did not make an iota of difference.

The war cabinet did not materialize into a significance entity and it for sure did not engender or promote a heightened level or sense of achdut – unity.

Conditions for “The Day  After” – Stabilization

As we begin to envision the conditions or prerequisites for “the day after,” there must be a series of concrete actions in response to new and emerging geopolitical, military, social and economic realities.

Reality dictates that before we can even begin to think about ways in which to stabilize Gaza, it is essential that Hamas, as a military and political entity must be completely dismantled,  marginalized and destroyed. This must include the complete and unconditional surrender of all Hamas combatants, the complete destruction of all Hamas command and control centers in Gaza, the destruction of all Hamas and Islamic Jihad missiles rockets and  firearms and the complete and total dismantling and destruction of their expansive underground tunnels.

Only after this surrender is realized will Israel cease its military offensive in Gaza.

The second condition is that all living hostages being held in Gaza and the bodies of deceased hostages must be respectfully transferred to the Israeli Red Cross and IDF authorities.

These transfers will happen in lockstep with the transfer of select Hamas prisoners and Palestinian terrorists and combatants now being held in Israeli military and civilian prisons.  The exact number and conditions for their release is to be determined.

Finally, there must be concrete plans (with no compromises) to relocate all Israeli families back to the north and on the southern borders of Gaza to the land and homes they were required to evacuate at the start of the war.

Every day that these precious families remain in hotels or other temporary shelters and facilities in Israel, is a day of continuous torture and trauma. This is especially the case for school-age children who are in dire need of healthy educational environments and structure and the hundreds who have lost loved ones in battle.

As we know, the aforementioned  “conditions” will not be easy to plan or implement. They will require the ongoing support and assistance of the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries in Europe in partnership with Israel.

Tangentially, at the right time, these transitions will also require a new wave of Aliya to Israel from the diaspora, at best, and/or a level of increased volunteerism in Israel, unsurpassed in Israel’s history.

Today’s matzav in Israel is a defining watershed moment for Am Yisrael. Its about survival and it must be about creating a level of Achdut as never before imaginable.

Conditions for “The Day After” – Governance and International Monitoring 

In order for military stabilization efforts to have a chance at succeeding, there must be a demilitarized zone separating Gaza from the current borders with Israel and between northern Israel and Lebanon where Hezbollah now enjoys freedom of movement and military dominance…all within  missile striking distance to Israel population centers and industrial zones.

In addition, there must be unconditional support and strict monitoring from a multinational task force that is committed to ensuring complete compliance with new governing requirements – including the future role of  the Palestinian Authority. This multinational entity will not only serve as a monitoring  and watchdog entity, but as a well armed, equipped and reliable combat entity, hand-picked by Israel and Israel’s partners.

To this end, I am recommending a Six-Year Disengagement Plan which will clearly articulate, detail and describe the conditions for implementing strict and agreed upon governance and international monitoring.

Beyond the Six- Year Disengagement Plan – A Long-Term Vision for the Future

These challenges and visions will not happen with ease or overnight. We must be reminded  that our enemies throughout history had and will continue to have one goal and one goal only – the complete destruction of Israel and the annihilation of Jews throughout the world.

I present the aforementioned vision for “conditions for the day after” (and beyond) with this mindset, attitude, understanding and commitment; and with tremendous respect and honor for those experts far more qualified and experienced to opine on this critical  challenge. At best, this blog represents one person’s perspective. A perspective which is deeply anchored in current thought, trends and realities on the ground; and one informed by friends, colleagues and credible experts currently living in Israel.

As a Jewish people, nation and country, we have no choice but to remain, build and flourish in Eretz Yisrael., our homeland and our birthright. Any compromised alternative to this reality is unacceptable under any conditions.

With the hand and guidance of HaShem, we have several choices or options.

We can continue to fight existential wars with our enemies every several years through wars of attrition at a very high cost; or we can try to live in the region through increased security and compromise – as long as it does not endanger or jeopardize Israel’s security, principles, endurance or existence.

As a communal influencer and realist, I sincerely believe that I will never see or experience true lasting Shalom between Israel and our enemies during my lifetime. But I do hope and pray to Hashem that our future generations will have that opportunity.

We definitely have the will and desire for peace  in the region. But, there is mounting uncertainly as to whether our enemies will ever feel the same. Time will tell.

Endnote:

In reality, none of us truly know how or when this existential war will end; nor do we know with any degree of certainty what “the day after” will bring.

At best, all is determined and orchestrated in the heavens. We must therefore continue to have deep our faith, bitachon and emunah in HaShem and hope that he will deliver Am Yisarel to victory and success.

The true winning formula for Am Yisrael must be embedded and anchored in achdut bnai yisrael through our continued tefillot, acts of chesed and the performance of mitzvot. 

We have no alternative and there are no other options.

We must continue to be K’Ish Echad B’lev Echad in both deed and thought.

Together, with HaShem’s will and oversight we can do this!

As we move forward into the future may Hashem extend blessings upon Acheinu Bnai Yisrael with the hope for peace and stability; and may he watch over Am Yisrael as we await the Geula.

Its time…

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is a senior executive coach and an organizational consultant . He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami; in addition to head of school and principal for several Jewish day schools and yeshivot. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, resource development, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011